Medical wearable devices, such as the ones used to monitor blood sugar level, sleep apnea disease, blood pressure levels, heart rates, sleep patterns, and skin temperatures, isn’t often discussed outside the medical community, but research says the field is taking off.
Unlike Fitbit Inc. wearable fitness tracking devices, not all wearable medical devices are intended for mass consumption, and yet the value of this segment should not be underestimated. According to a market research report conducted by ResearchAndMarkets the medical wearable devices market is expected to grow 21.3 percent by 2020, reaching revenues of $41.3 billion.
The report indicates that North America holds the largest share in the global medical wearables market, which is explained by increasing awareness regarding personal health, a growing elderly care market and increasing governmental funding for innovation in the field. The European market accounts for about 30 percent of the overall global revenue, followed by the Asia Pacific region.
In recent years the United States and Canadian governments have been quite open in helping small companies to invest in research and development. Earlier this year Biotricity Inc., a healthcare technology company dedicated to delivering medically relevant biometric remote monitoring solutions, has been awarded a research grant from the National Research Council-Industrial Research Assistance Program of Canada. The grant enables Biotricity to conduct research around the use of heart rate variability (HRV) in various applications for preventative medicine.
Biotricity has two devices under development that will launch into the market this year, Bioflux — a heart-rhythm monitoring device that connects to an industry leading ECG (Electrocardiogram) FDA cleared software component and Biolife — designed to provide health and lifestyle solutions by monitoring ECG, respiration rate, calories, temperature, physical activity and more.
In Europe, the German based company Siemens AG has produced several innovative products and software for the medical wearables sector. An example, Siemens developed a software that enables images from their Freestyle ultrasound unit to be projected on the Alphabet Inc. Glass display.
Developing apps for wearable devices that can then be used for medical purposes is an intriguing proposition. In 2014 Google Glass was used during a surgery removing a tumor from a patient’s abdominal cavity. The surgeons voice commands to view the patient’s MRI scans and X-ray images during the operation, essentially making it hands free.
Another example is Medtronic plc, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, among the world’s largest medical technology, services and solutions companies in this sector. At the moment, wearable medical devices mostly depend on the user’s intervention to start working and record data, which then will be analyzed.
Most of the devices are manufactured with sophisticated sensors, which monitor metabolic changes and generate results in seconds. The next generation of wearable devices in the medical segment is expected to provide a real time analysis of the data together with appropriate feedback regarding the user’s health. So there is a lot to wait for.